Family Engagement a Shared Responsibility

Family engagement in education is much more than parents helping a child with their most challenging homework or simply attending a single parent-teacher conference. It is more than incidental involvement. Rather, family engagement is a comprehensive alliance among the entire family, school, and surrounding community. The Harvard Family Research Project specifically defines family engagement as being “a shared responsibility in which schools and other community agencies and organizations are committed to reaching out to engage in meaningful ways and in which families are committed to actively supporting their children’s learning and development.”

Family engagement begins at home. Simple daily activities, such as discussing the school day and helping with homework, are important first steps. Parents with more time are encouraged to take more active roles outside the home, attending school functions and activities such as athletic events, musical performances, as well as other educational school and community events, with the entire family. Parents may also begin to engage with school teachers and administrators by volunteering at these events, chaperoning field trips, and becoming active members of parent-teacher and other supporting organizations.

While active encouragement and support by all family members is essential, family engagement in education truly begins by establishing and expanding these mutually-beneficial relationships among these families and their school district. A welcoming and approachable school environment encourages families to give feedback on their child’s experiences, and then have meaningful dialogue with teachers and administrators about opportunities for improvement. Schools, in return, then have more information about students’ strengths to nurture their success, as well as community input on the most positive and challenging aspects of their educational structures and systems.

Eastern Ohio Education Partnership (EOEP), in partnership with W.K. Kellogg Foundation, is fostering these mutually-beneficial relationships by piloting new Family Engagement initiatives, beginning with an extensive needs assessment in Warren City School District. Area residents are currently knocking on doors to survey families across the community about educational successes, challenges, and opportunities. At the same time, they are collecting contact information from parents and families desiring more mutually-beneficial relationships with school teachers and administrators for their own and other students’ success. Community needs assessment surveys may also be completed online.

The analysis of this assessment data will help identify the focus and priorities of several Parent Café events to be held in Warren this fall. The Parent Café model of guided conversations around predetermined questions at various tables in an informal relaxed setting is specifically designed to inspire individuals, enrich conversations, and build active engagement among participants. EOEP will host these café sessions at a number of different sites, such as churches and public housing developments, while also providing free childcare and a light meal, to maximize community involvement. The Parent Café dates, times, and locations will be announced through the media and online shortly. Anyone submitting their contact information through the needs assessment survey, or through our web page, will receive personal notification by phone or email.

Feedback from the Parent Cafes, when combined with assessment data, will chart a clear path to future family engagement opportunities and initiatives, complementing the strong work already being done by many Mahoning Valley schools. Together in collaboration with school, community, and parent leadership, we will continue identifying and eliminating barriers to educational success.

Prepare Students for School Days

The back to school season can be stressful. After all, the summer was chock-full of fun, less structure and late bedtimes. Now it’s time to prepare students for school days again. However, this doesn’t have to be a chore. The following tips can help get your children on board and excited for school.

Scheduling Zzz’s

Oftentimes children sleep in later during the summer, and need to adjust back to a sleep schedule for school. One way to adapt your child’s schedule is to set their alarm earlier two weeks before the start of school. Parents can gradually ease their child into a good sleep schedule so they aren’t groggy the first week of school.

Numerous studies show that a regular bedtime is crucial for the wellbeing of children. For school-aged children, it’s especially important to establish lifelong sleep habits. A lack of a regular sleep schedule is linked to lower academic achievement and higher rates of absenteeism. Worse, it is also linked to hyperactivity, acting out and being emotionally withdrawn.

The ideal amount of sleep for grade-schoolers (6-12 year olds) is 9-12 hours, and for teens (13-18 year olds), 8-10 hours. Two big culprits of a poor sleep routine are too much screen time and caffeine. Both can detract from the quality and length of sleep.  Limit these two by scheduling screen time after-school, removing TVs and video game consoles from the bedroom, and lessening caffeine intake in the afternoons and evenings.

Shop Smart and Early

How many old binders, pens, and folders are lying around in drawers, forgotten about? Back-to-school shopping should be done to re-stock supplies, not utterly replace existing supplies. Shopping smart means that parents only buy what they need. Lots of other materials—such as binders, book bags, pencil cases—can be re-used each year. This move not only saves money, it teaches children the importance of sustainability and re-use. For everything else still needed, make sure to shop early to avoid the rush and stress of making shopping trips last-minute.

Having the proper supplies for class is crucial to the success of students. Usually teachers will send a supply list home a month before the first day. If the budget is tight this year, make a list and prioritize the most important supplies. Hunt for back-to-school sales or bargains, and consider buying in bulk essential supplies that will be needed throughout the year. If you live in Ashtabula, Columbiana, or the Mahoning Valley, consult this list to see if your child is eligible for free school supplies.

You can also buy in bulk to save on school lunches. Check local supermarkets for deals on fruits and vegetables, to pack healthy lunches for your child. You can also check out the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) to see if your child qualifies for free or reduced school lunches.

Plan, Plan, Plan

Planning ahead is the best way to avoid a stressful first day. Parents can set a good example by planning ahead themselves. First, create a planning method for the entire family, and then specifically for each child. A central calendar is a great way to schedule the entire family’s activities, appointments, and events. Display it in a main room for the entire family to see, and update it weekly or even daily. Invest in a planner or agenda for each child, as it’s a great way to learn how to plan day-to-day.

Is the morning rush too hectic, with kids fighting for bathroom time and breakfast being forgotten? Parents can plan and prepare for each school day the night before. Set the breakfast table and pack lunches the night before as a family. Parents can get their kids involved in creating and preparing their daily lunch meals by asking for their input on what to buy, and teaching them how to pack their lunches. Parents can also encourage their kids to set out their school clothes and backpack the night before.

Get Ready to Learn

Getting children back into school-mode is not just about readjusting sleep schedules and purchasing planners, it’s also about preparing them to learn. Getting back into school mode can be done several ways, including visiting cultural attractions such as museums and attending local back-to-school events.

Back-to-school community events abound. Parks bustle with events that encourage play and exercise. Farmer’s Markets often have craft activities for kids, live music, and healthy cooking demos. These events and more can be found either through a park’s online community calendar, or on this list of Mahoning Valley summer events.

Typically, local libraries will host events that promote reading, music, art, and play. These events can be found on their websites as well. Click here to learn more about what’s going on in Ashtabula, Columbiana, Mahoning, and Trumbull County libraries.

Museums also provide unique learning experiences, oftentimes their exhibits teach many subjects at once. Children can be exposed to historical artifacts about art, history, biology, and more, all in one visit. Check out some of Mahoning Valley’s unique museums, such as Oh Wow! The Roger and Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science and Technology Museum, The Butler Institute of American Art, The Ernie Hall Aviation Museum, The Museum of Ceramics, or The Hubbard House Underground Railroad Museum.

This back-to-school season can be stress-free and fun with the right preparation. Here’s to the start of a great year!

Written by Georgia Kasamias, Eastern Ohio Education Partnership Communications Intern and senior at Youngstown State University.





Advocate for Education

The 4th of July is a day of fireworks, family, and of course, hotdogs and hamburgers. More importantly, it’s a day to reflect on our freedom and rights as American citizens. Our voice matters, on a local, state, and federal level. And our voice can lead to change through legislative advocacy.

Legislative advocacy for Education means supporting and speaking up for children—in schools, in communities, and before government bodies and other organizations that make decisions affecting children. Advocacy’s meaning is broad. For one example, Eastern Ohio Education Partnership has engaged in advocacy through data-driven reports. EOEP recently partnered with Policy Matters Ohio to report findings and recommend changes to provide access to quality preschools for everyone in the Valley.

Legislative advocacy can be done at an organizational level, such as by EOEP, or on an individual level. All individuals, including students, parents, and teachers, can take simple steps to advocate for education in their region.

On an individual level, a solid first step is to attend a school board meeting or even serve on the school board. That way, community members can understand first-hand the key issues faced by schools. Once an understanding of these issues is reached, individuals could offer recommendations to the schools. For example, individuals could work closely with schools to implement strong family engagement programs, such as parent workshops that address the significance of reading at home. Attending school board meetings is another excellent way to network with key players in a district.

Community members may also schedule a meeting separately with school leaders to discuss concerns or topics of importance to the district. Students in middle or high school can run for student government, or contact student government leaders to discuss ideas. Student government associations at a university are usually given a budget to help fund student organizations. College students could join student government or lobby funds from one of their student organizations.

Local school funding plays a critical role in the education decision-making process. While the state and federal government finance part of public school district budgets, the largest share often comes from local sources, such as property taxes, in the form of tax levies. School districts may place a levy on the ballot and, if approved by a majority of voters, the county then charges and collects the tax over a specific period of time for a variety of school uses, including debt service, operating expenses, ongoing or special improvements, as well as recreational, library, technology, or even community center purposes. Working directly with your local school board and specific levy committees are the best way to learn more about and influence the direction of these complex local school funding opportunities.

Oftentimes, local funding is also impacted by the state and federal government. Enter your zip code at the Ohio Legislature 132nd General Assembly web page to identify your Ohio House and Senate members, visit Ohio.GOV to find contact information for other State of Ohio elected officials, and engage with the State Board of Education online. To reach your federal Congressional representatives, enter your home address at GovTrack.US, and then share your opinions with the U.S. Department of Education.

In advocacy, there is power in numbers through grassroots organizing. Joining a local advocacy group allows one voice to join many on an issue. Together, individuals could organize events, distribute literature, and call representatives en masse about an issue. When it comes to writing, introducing, and passing bills, as well as securing funding, the more constituent support, the better.

A community member could also write a letter to the editor of a local newspaper, and have other parents and/or advocates sign it. Newspaper’s have far-reaching audiences in the community, and are viewed as legitimate sources of information. Because of this, letters to the editor are powerful messages.

Lastly, individuals shouldn’t be afraid to post about important issues via social media. Family and friends may just be swayed to join the efforts, or vote in a way that benefits education.

Whenever advocating for an issue, keep these following tips in mind:

  • Keep track of key bills that will affect education in your region.
  • Know the names of your representatives, as well as their voting positions.
  • Know issues inside and out. Be prepared to summarize positions.
  • Know the opposing argument.
  • Fact-check the sources of news articles. Make sure all information is credible.
  • Don’t guess at or exaggerate fact. An individual doesn’t have to be an expert, but they do have to be honest.

A key pattern in successful legislative advocacy is a clear understanding of the issue, open and active community engagement and education, and strength in numbers. Without one of these three components, advocacy falls flat. A single person who can argue their point well won’t be able to sway legislators. However, a group of thousands of people who present a clear argument can. For more information, see Community Tool Box’s General Rules for Organizing for Legislative Advocacy.

An incredible success story comes from Massachusetts. An adult education advocacy group – Massachusetts Coalition for Adult Education (MCAE) – drafted a bill upholding the state’s duty to educate all of its citizens, no matter their age. The MCAE located legislators to sponsor it, and through a joint effort it was passed as a part of an education reform bill. Because of this, state funding for adult literacy education increased greatly, allowing crucial programs to be implemented. More adults are now learning how to read, who wouldn’t have had the opportunity a decade ago. This concrete element marks true success in advocacy. However, with advocacy, a job is never “finished.” MCAE continues to lobby for continual funding for this program. Many other advocacy groups remain attentive to new bills and programs that could help or hurt their mission.

No doubt, legislative advocacy is crucial to support education on all levels. It’s up to us to speak up.

Written by Georgia Kasamias, Eastern Ohio Education Partnership Communications Intern and senior at Youngstown State University.

Education Starts Early in Warren City Schools

School no longer starts in kindergarten. Children and their families across Warren now can get an academic edge, become familiar with the school they will attend, and start play time as early as age three.

Warren City Schools now offers 10 total preschool classrooms throughout the traditional academic year: an all-day program at each of the four PK-8 schools—Jefferson, Lincoln, McGuffey, and Willard—for four year olds, and both morning and afternoon half day programs at each of these schools as well as two more at Warren G. Harding High School for three- and four-year-old children. All preschools have earned the highest 5-star Step Up To Quality rating from State of Ohio, with each lead teacher holding at least a Bachelors degree in their field, and supported by a highly qualified assistant teacher.

Serving more than 300 children, the preschool program provides an early head start for more than 60% of the district’s kindergarten students. And it’s inclusive, offering free door-to-door transportation and tuition for any City of Warren resident. Most begin preschool in the same building they’ll soon be attending for nearly a decade. “It’s important to start kids at their neighborhood school. They and their families become immediately familiar with the building, our teachers and staff, and our policies, reducing transitions they might otherwise have to make later between academic programs,” said Kelly Hutchison, Warren City Schools Preschool Coordinator.

The literacy-based standards-driven program focuses on learning through play, with emphasis on social and emotional learning, oral language, shared reading, and early math skills. It begins with a Reggio Emilia inspired approach, which values every child as strong, capable and resilient—rich with wonder and knowledge. Preschool children construct their own learning, shaping it through the exploration of and reflection on experiences. These experiences allow these children to form an understanding of themselves and their place in the world through interactions with others. The surrounding environment acts as another teacher, with adults serving as mentors and guides, as this hands-on discovery learning lets children use all their senses to express their ideas through actual and symbolic languages.

Within this approach, using Literacy Beginnings framework, preschool students own curiosity and excitement are engaged in unique month-long project-based experiences to build a shared community of learners. From farming to construction to human anatomy, teachers build each month’s entire curriculum, infused with tons of arts and activities, to observe, explore, and understand each given topic. These projects are inclusive of business and community partners as well. To extend the learning experience, every student also receives a book aligned with the monthly topic every two weeks, not just for classroom use but also to take home permanently with corresponding games and enrichment activities to be completed with their parents.

Students learn how to make the world a better place, too, through Warren Kids CARE. Funded in part by a Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership Warren SOUP micro-grant, some students volunteer by caring for local senior communities while others take collections to support youth at Akron Children’s Hospital. The preschool programs also regularly engage out of the classroom with a variety of other community and service agencies, such as Warren-Trumbull County Public Library and Trumbull Art Gallery, among others.

This coming academic year, Warren City Schools are expanding the preschool program by hiring a new Family Liaison. In addition to general day-to-day support and traditional home visits between preschool teachers and their students and families, the new staffer will help parents create positive learning environments at home, cultivate impactful parental engagement in their child’s school and activities, and make connections for them with essential community and social resources. The Family Liaison will also be organizing a new preschool parents group to deepen community relationships and provide essential feedback.

“All of our preschool’s growth and refinement now help us build more personal relationships, increase student stability, and better prepare them for kindergarten,” said Hutchison. “We are always expanding opportunities for our families and with our community partners.”

Warren City Schools Preschool space remains available for 2017-218 academic year. Register by calling (330) 675-4321.

Postsecondary Education Can Lead to Better Future

June, the month of high school graduations. The month of ceremonies, sighs of relief, and celebrations. The month of asking, “What’s next?” For many students, the next step is postsecondary education at a community college or university.

But that choice comes at a cost. Decades ago, college students could pay their tuition from their summer job earnings. Today, more and more students are taking out loans to pay for an increasingly expensive higher education. Few students have the luxury to commit to college without considering the sticker price.

There is no denying it: the costs of college have risen dramatically over the years. According to one source, “the cost of higher education has surged more than 528% since 1985. In comparison, medical costs have jumped more than 286% while the consumer price index has jumped 121%. Meaning higher education is almost 4.5 times as expensive as it was 30 years ago.”

So, is college worth it? The answer is overwhelmingly: yes.

Higher education has been shown to improve rates of employment and future earning potential. College graduates make an average of 84% more over the course of a lifetime than those who only attend high school. This advantage adds up significantly over a lifetime. While the cost of attending college can be steep, the difference in median income is more than enough to justify it. An average college graduate who works until retirement earns an additional $800,000.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, those with a college degree earn about twice as much as those with only a high school diploma. In 2015, degree holders earned an average of $48,500, while diploma holders earned an average of $23,900.

Having some postsecondary education, even without earning a degree, adds nearly one quarter of a million dollars to lifetime earnings. Not only will a college education benefit an individual fiscally, it will also reduce unemployment chances. The unemployment rate of college graduates is half the level of their peers. For example, in 2014, the unemployment rate for diploma holders was 6 percent, compared to 3.5 percent for Bachelor degree holders, and 3 percent for Masters degree holders. In today’s job market, a college degree plays a huge role in who gets hired.

Besides the hard data of employment and wage benefits, it’s clear that higher education is the more effective social mobility route in the United States. The Brookings Institute determined that without a college degree, a child in the lowest income bracket has a 45 percent chance of remaining impoverished, and only a 5 percent chance of making it to the highest earning bracket. However, with a college degree, that same child has a 16 percent chance of remaining in the lowest bracket, and an astounding 19 percent chance of making it to the highest income bracket. When looking at economically disadvantaged areas, higher education means more than one individual’s success. It can break cycles of poverty and revitalize communities.

Higher education also provides invaluable, unquantifiable benefits—exposure to different worldviews, a community of peers, access to materials and professors, a chance to explore a passion. Of course, there are a plethora of human beings who never attended college and lead fulfilling, enriched lives while making a good living. College is unique, however, in that it structures its students to become well-rounded. As President Jim Tressel has written in his book, The Winner’s Manual: “We know that many people without an academic degree do wonderful things. We would never suggest that having a degree makes someone a better person. But if they have the opportunity to move toward a degree and find something they are passionate about, they’ll find themselves with choices that someone without a degree might now have.”

Moreover, the costs of college can be manageable. Students can pursue Pell grants and other federal support that does not need to be paid back. Furthermore, students can invest energy into earning scholarships. Lastly, and most importantly, students can choose affordable institutions, as well as degree or certificate programs leading to good careers and salaries, at several area institutions, including Eastern Gateway Community College, Kent State University Trumbull, and Youngstown State University. In addition, students attending school locally can save room and board expenses.

There are accessible and affordable paths locally to make the choice simple: a postsecondary education leading to a better future.

Written by Georgia Kasamias, Eastern Ohio Education Partnership Communications Intern and senior at Youngstown State University.

Mary’s Little Lambs Earns Top State Quality Rating

Mary’s Little Lambs Childcare and Preschool has been named the first five-star Step Up To Quality (SUTQ) licensed family child care provider in the Mahoning Valley, recognizing their exceptional learning and development standards, staff qualifications, administrative practices, along with family and community partnerships. The rating is the highest possible by the Ohio Department of Education and Department of Job and Family Services, with standards based on national research leading to improved outcomes for children.

MaryBeth Bush launched Mary’s Little Lambs more than two decades ago after struggling to find adequate childcare for her own children. Today, she’s licensed for up to six children ranging from six weeks to 12 years old. Most have been with her for years, including younger siblings of children who have aged out of her care and, in some cases, the next generation of her past clients now grown with families of their own.

“I’m the oldest of eight children. We have three kids, with my youngest about to graduate from Champion High School. And we have eleven children on the childcare roster,” she said. “I’ve been taking care of infants for as long as I can remember, and love knowing we’ve made a difference in their lives.”

Children begin arriving at her home as early as 6:30 am. They usually enjoy time together each morning reading or creating arts and crafts, before taking part in science, math, large muscle, and other educational activities in the lower level learning center. After snacks, they may go outside to her playground, ride bikes in the driveway, create chalk art on the sidewalk, or play other games. Storytime follows lunch, and then an afternoon nap. Some days also include visits by Warren-Trumbull County Public Library staff and other activities led by a gym instructor. Parents begin picking up kids around 4:30 pm but she frequently remains open later to help working parents.

“But we never have the same day twice. Being a smaller provider means I can more easily adjust each day to what the kids need,” Bush said. “And since we have kids together of all ages, the younger children are helped by and learn from older children, including their own siblings. They are usually separated by age groups at larger childcare centers.” Bush provides a more personal touch, too, such as when she sends parents cell phone photos of their children at play.

In addition to running her business, Bush founded Helping Association for Professional Providers of Young Children (HAPPY) Homes Ohio Association, an official Ohio affiliate to National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC). Happy Homes helps build better relationships among preschool organizations by sharing state certification, professional development, and potential funding information, as well as simply providing mentoring and moral support. The group has had as many as 50 current members, and collaborates with Trumbull County Jobs & Family Services, State Support Region 5, Child Care Connection, NAEYC (Ohio AEYC), NAFCC, as well as other public and private organizations with similar missions and goals.

“The nature of our work sometimes leaves individual providers in isolation,” explained MaryBeth. “HAPPY Homes brings everyone together each month not just for speakers and professional development but to also network with others who understand our business.”

These collaborations, along with her focus on safe and quality programming, led to Mary’s Little Lambs earning the highest State of Ohio quality rating for early learning and development programs. The measurement accounts for teacher training, development of school readiness skills, commitment to continuous improvement, and focus on family engagement.

“Their goal was to raise the quality bar. A lot of it we were already doing. We just needed to make a few small improvements and do a better job documenting it for the State,” said MaryBeth. “I knew we could do it.”

To learn more about and enroll in Mary Little Lamb’s Childcare and Preschool, call MaryBeth Bush at (330) 847-1957.

Ohio Needs Greater Investment in Quality Preschool

Early education is vital to children’s development. The benefits are well known: they include better language, math, cognitive thinking, and social skills, and last well into school. Early care and education also strengthens the financial stability of families by enabling parents to work. Parents of young children often use preschool and childcare interchangeably. Good programs thus serve as both educational investments in the future, and community infrastructure today.

High quality preschool helps children get ready for school. Youngstown City Schools took a great step forward this past December by expanding their part-time preschool to a full day. Youngstown preschools are free, serve three-to-five-year-olds; and are top rated under the state’s Step Up To Quality program, with some classrooms still awaiting assessment.

Yet not all Valley communities offer free full-day preschools, and limited hours leave many families turning to childcare centers or homes. Public preschools in Trumbull County served only about 13 percent of eligible children; Mahoning County 18 percent. Warren City Schools earned high marks, offering both full and half day options for families. Center-based programs range in quality, and while some are excellent, they tend to be the ones with limited hours, wait-lists, and price tags too high for public childcare recipients. In-home childcares are most flexible, but with few participating in the Step Up To Quality program, and many foregoing licensure altogether, they lack oversight and educational value varies widely.

Too many Mahoning Valley children lack access to a safe, high-quality program. Finding one that both fosters learning and offers hours that let parents work is a special challenge. Communities throughout the Valley are making strides, but work is needed to boost quality across all preschool types. We also need to ensure access to all families by locating schools close to home, adding wraparound childcare, and investing adequate public resources.

Step Up To Quality is the state’s primary measure of program quality. The state rates centers, schools, and a handful of homes. Well-trained teachers, good curriculum, and small class sizes earn good ratings. To boost quality, the state mandated participation for public preschools last June and for centers receiving public funds by 2020.

Today, less than half of Mahoning Valley preschools participate in Step Up To Quality, and just 22 percent are considered “high quality,” with a 3+ star rating. More troubling, in health and safety inspections conducted through February 2016, fifteen of 34 Mahoning County centers had serious risk violations.

Yet just as the state pushes to mandate higher quality, low reimbursement rates are causing some centers to drop out of the program, still voluntary for now. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that the state pay a rate high enough to cover 75 percent of programs. Yet Ohio reimburses at a rate so low that less than a third of programs are affordable to families on subsidized care.

Childcare and preschool are too expensive for many families. For a family that lacks a public preschool or relies on a center or home to meet childcare needs, the median cost is $9,370 a year for a single child in Trumbull County, and $7,550 in Mahoning County, where families earn less: a fifth of the family budget in both cases.

These costs put preschool with childcare out of reach even for many middle-income families, leaving them to turn to public childcare assistance. There a complex web of rules threatens continued access. Families earning up to three times the poverty level can qualify, but only if they first received assistance when they were below 130 percent of poverty, and kept it without interruption as their incomes grew.

Not only do families struggle under the current funding model: programs do too. Staffing enough skilled, stable teachers so that young children get quality care is expensive. Stable relationships with their teachers are vital for children, especially those most at-risk due to poverty at home. Yet teacher turnover rates average 27 percent in private centers. Investment in staff makes a big difference: Head Start teachers earn 50 percent more nationwide, and have turnover rates of just ten percent. Center-based preschool teachers earn less than 97 percent of all Ohio workers. These teachers often struggle with poverty themselves.

Bridging the gap means deeper investments in childcare and preschool. Public and all-day preschools are a great step. Better infrastructure must be built to reach more kids, and a push – with funding – to bring all programs into the quality rating system must be made. Funding should be aligned for preschool and childcare programs, and the state must increase reimbursement levels. Governor Kasich’s proposed state budget raises spending by just 3.1 percent over the next two years, likely too little to keep pace with inflation. Teachers and communities are doing their best, and making great strides to bring preschool to all Mahoning Valley children. Now it’s time for the state to do its part too.

Social and Emotional Learning Skills Are Life Skills

Social and Emotional Learning for Life, the third in an ongoing educational workshop series hosted by We Are Warren and Eastern Ohio Education Partnership (EOEP), shared with area community and non-profit leaders the importance of teaching other adults and youth how to govern emotions and defuse conflict for educational and life-long success.

“Strong communication skills are at the heart of social and emotional learning strategies, and how we choose to use those skills is extremely important,” explained Jill Merolla, Warren City Schools SEL Director, as well as Supervisor of Community Outreach & Grant Development. “Respect and peaceful resolution ensure our students remain on task, improve performance, and maintain good behaviors.”

Social and Emotional Learning involves teaching and facilitating skills that students and adults need to be successful at home, at school, and in the workplace. When students and adults have social and emotional skills they are self and socially aware, and have the ability to manage themselves both independently and while interacting with others. They can listen to perspectives of others, use positive communication, be aware of cultural issues and differences, set and achieve goals, and take personal responsibility for they learning.

Future educational workshops will be held this fall on topics determined by series participants. Write to with a subject line including Educational Series for more information visit online at

Success Starts in Math Class

Math is the great equalizer. Math offers equalization in ways that additional money or other resources simply cannot. Even more than a child’s demographic or gender, math scores better predict the likelihood a student will one day reach college and graduate into a successful career beyond. But before we jump into data crunching, let’s focus on why any of this matters.

It is here that parents and businesses can have the biggest impact on fostering what will ultimately be a stronger, more capable, and more intelligent future workforce. Parents and corporations have the pivotal opportunity to ensure their legislators and school administrators advance a strong math curriculum in all public schools. Right now, that critical math curriculum is all too often missing. In fact, it is sorely lacking precisely where it is needed most. This disparity directly hinders our children’s growth.

Research shows that not all students receive the same math education. The classic Adelman study shows that public schools with predominantly minority demographics have significantly lower math standards, fewer classes, and fewer advancement opportunities compared to schools with predominantly white and higher economic class demographics. This is immensely detrimental to our children’s growth because, as the Adelman study concludes, “the highest level of mathematics reached in high school continues to be a key marker in precollegiate momentum, with the tipping point of momentum toward a bachelor’s degree now firmly above Algebra 2.”

Knowing this, what does it mean when we continue to neglect math for children of minority backgrounds? The facts go on to show, for example, that “Latino students are far less likely to attend high schools that offer trigonometry (let alone calculus) than white or Asian students.” Just as unfortunate, students from lower socio-economic classes experience similar disadvantages in their access to math curriculum.

For example, Greg Duncan, a renowned professor of education at the University of California Irvine, conducted a landmark study on the role math plays in childhood development. Duncan concluded that while our emphasis for young children has historically revolved around reading and behavior, we must not ignore math going forward. He found that elementary math skills are more important than any other subject in predicting a child’s long-term success.

Amazingly, a child’s kindergarten math scores are a better predictor of his or her third-grade math and reading scores, than a child’s kindergarten reading scores. As the most accurate predictor of a child’s long-term success, math best prepares and develops a child’s mind to accept, analyze and execute complex ideas. But this is only part of the equation.

If we believe that our children are our future, their mathematical blueprint must then be drawn and secured early enough for them to benefit from it. Another study known as “The Forgotten Middle” reveals eighth grade as the ‘deadline’ that most accurately predicts a child’s success in college and beyond. In other words, if a child has received the relevant math education and training by eighth grade, two things become much more likely. First, that child will have a higher likelihood of going to college. And second, that child will likely be more successful in high school, college, and careers beyond.

Math can significantly close the gap between a wealthy white student and an underprivileged black or Hispanic student. Math can connect all our children to new opportunities never before made available to them. Math provides a blueprint for both aspiring and established businesses alike to recruit new and diverse talent primed for success. An effective education in math is the vehicle that will transform the increasingly diverse talent pool that comprises America’s student body into consistent candidates for successful future companies.

Written by Muhammed Chaudhry, CEO of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation (@EducationIQ), as guest columnist for Forbes Magazine, May 8, 2015.


Building Strengths Overcomes Trauma, Cultivates Success

Community and non-profit leaders from local school districts, area churches, child care providers, and other organizations explored how to identify and emphasize personal strengths, relationships, and crucial opportunities to help young people succeed during today’s Building Resilience to Overcome Trauma workshop, the second of an ongoing educational series hosted by We Are Warren and Eastern Ohio Education Partnership (EOEP).


“Anyone can have a powerful impact on children’s behavior,” said Sarah Braun, EOEP Network Action Team Manager and workshop facilitator. “Helping them develop strengths – or build assets – is relatively easy. There are plenty of opportunities every day to engage, encourage, and empower children.”


From her extensive experience clinically supporting children in a variety of professional and academic settings, Braun shared with workshop participants a strengths-based resiliency framework for healthy youth development used to assess and address the potential effects of trauma on children’s’ attendance, behavior, relationships, and performance. They learned how to build developmental assets, spread across eight broad areas of human development, in children at home, in schools, in their neighborhood, and across the community. The workshop also explored how caregivers and instructors can maintain their own self-care to avoid compassion fatigue and secondary trauma.


The next session in the series, Social and Emotional Learning for Life, will teach leaders strategies for helping youth recognize and manage emotions, develop care and concern for others, make responsible decisions, establish positive relationships, and handle challenging situations effectively. The ability to govern emotions and defuse conflict then allows children to remain on task, increases good behavior, and improves performance.


Jill Merolla, Warren City Schools Supervisor of Community Outreach & Grant Development, will lead the April 11 session, also to be held 10 am – 1 pm at Warren City Schools Administration Building. She provides the district with immediate crisis management and support, along with managing counseling, family coordinators, and community liaisons.


Future educational sessions will be held this summer on topics determined by series participants. Write to with a subject line including Educational Series for more information, or register online at

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